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A bizarre moment

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THE YEAR 2020 has been an extraordinary year and if there was any thought that it could not get any more bizarre, the announcement that general elections will be held on November 5 put an end to that. That date is associated with the annual Fireworks display celebrating the failure to blow up the house of parliament and hailing the survival of King James 1. This was most likely brought to the colonies by British colonisers. Will it be significant later for something different? Come hell or high water there will be fireworks! Future November 5 celebrations might have more to do with this particular night than with the Guy Fawkes incident 415 years ago.

More pointedly the election takes place eight days after the celebration of our 41st anniversary of Independence. We will mark the 27th of October as a nation more divided than ever.  The emphasis will obviously be on the elections, an independence anniversary with a difference!  Independence activities will become election activities, so Goodbye to our 41st anniversary. Under our system where the date of election is in the head of the Prime Minister, there is usually an effort to catch the opposing party with its pants down. That was obviously not a consideration this time around, but there must be something that motivated it, so we wait to see!  Certainly not a whisper from above!
One question that needs to be asked has to do with the protocols that will be put in place for the Independence celebrations whatever form they take, and for the election campaign, which is already in high gear. In a number of Caribbean countries there is concern about a second wave of COVID –19 as with Europe and North America. St. Lucia recently announced its 29th Covid-19 case and there is mounting concern since the individual who tested positive was a 48-year-old minibus driver. St. Lucians are our neighbours. We have had 64 positive cases of the coronavirus, 35 more than them.  They have also tested over 8, 800 persons, while we have done so far just under 6,000, according to the October 14 figures.

Despite the continuation of public service announcements about the coronavirus, we seem not to be taking them seriously. In fact, there have been mixed messages. Many places provide sanitizers which people use, but then enter without masks and are oblivious to social distancing. Will there be special protocols to cover political rallies, late though they will be? When we hear that there are no active Covid-19 positive cases we assume that we are out of the woods and that it is no longer a problem. But we have to maintain our guard. Like our neighbours, the cases are brought by persons travelling here. We have flights coming weekly, particularly from the American hotbed, so we have constantly to be on our guard.

We have to be proactive and not reactive and so put in place the necessary protocols and ensure that they are adhered to. We have had six deaths from Dengue, which is a manageable disease with which we are quite familiar. Covid-19 is new, with still a number of unknowns, so caution has to be exercised. We have been quite lucky, since we have been sending mixed signals and never really had a strong communication strategy. It is important that examples be set by those given the responsibility of managing the control of the virus. There is no other occasion, except perhaps carnival, that brings together people in mass in this way. Let us play it safe and act rather than react. These are uncertain times!  Taking Warning!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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